With Chapman in the fold, what's next for Giants?

March 4th, 2024

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- It took a while, but manager Bob Melvin finally got his guy on Sunday, when the Giants officially signed third baseman to a one-year, $18 million contract that includes two player options in 2025 and ‘26, as well as a mutual option in ‘27.

Melvin has made no secret of his affection for Chapman, a four-time Gold Glove Award winner whom he managed for five seasons in Oakland. Chapman is expected to not only shore up the Giants’ infield defense, but also bring extra durability and right-handed pop to a retooled lineup that features another pair of free-agent additions in Jung Hoo Lee and Jorge Soler.

“This was one that Bob felt strongly about,” president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said prior to the Giants’ 6-5 win over the Guardians at Goodyear Ballpark. “Beyond all the objective measures, the defense, supporting our pitching staff, the offense and how it plays at our park, it’s just having a guy that Bob feels like he can rely on to be in the lineup every day to set a tone. He’s an incredible competitor.”

Chapman and his agent, Scott Boras, are expected to hold a press conference at Scottsdale Stadium on Monday to discuss the move, but Zaidi shed some light on where the Giants go from here during a 26-minute Zoom call with reporters on Sunday.

Here are three things we learned from Zaidi’s availability:

1. A move could be coming to address the Giants’ surplus of infielders
Chapman’s arrival will create a positional logjam for the Giants, who will have a harder time finding opportunities for corner infielders such as J.D. Davis, Wilmer Flores, Casey Schmitt and David Villar. Zaidi acknowledged that trades could help clear out some of the club’s roster redundancies, though he said no moves were imminent.

“We obviously like all of those players and we don’t have a specific plan in place of who we’re prioritizing or what moves may come,” Zaidi said. “But we have several weeks until we get going here, so we’ll explore different things. It’s certainly possible that a move or two happens before the end of camp.”

Davis, the Giants’ erstwhile starting third baseman, looms as the most likely trade candidate, but Melvin said he told the 30-year-old veteran to try to focus on what he can control.

“The message to J.D. is just keep doing what you’re doing,” Melvin said. “You never know how things are going to shake out. You never know what’s going to happen in spring tomorrow, the next day. Injury, potential trade, whatever. But he needs to keep his spirits up.”

2. What about the rotation?

The Giants’ rotation has been significantly thinned by the injuries to Alex Cobb (left hip surgery), Robbie Ray (Tommy John surgery) and Tristan Beck (upper arm aneurysm), so they could still make another move to bring in a free-agent starter such as Blake Snell or Jordan Montgomery. Still, Zaidi continued to express confidence that the Giants have enough internal depth to fill those holes early in the season, especially with pitching prospects Mason Black (Giants' No. 9), Carson Whisenhunt, Landen Roupp (No. 15) and Kai-Wei Teng on the cusp of reaching the Majors.

"We want to elevate our young pitchers," Zaidi said. "There's uncertainty that comes from the fact that there's a lack of familiarity. Young pitchers are definitionally not household names, but we think that the more they get a chance to prove themselves, you sort of have to take the leap with them at some point and this is something we've been planning for a couple of years, to get younger in our rotation and give these guys the opportunity to win jobs.

"I'll say what I said last time we talked after we signed Soler -- the offseason is really over as far as we're concerned,” he added. “We're more in in-season mode, which doesn't mean you can't make additions, but it's a different dynamic because we're really focused on the players that we have and how they're all going to fit together."

3. Payroll implications

After adding Chapman, Lee, Soler, Jordan Hicks and Tom Murphy, the Giants have now guaranteed over $250 million to free agents this offseason, pushing their estimated 2024 payroll for competitive balance tax purposes to approximately $230 million, according to FanGraphs. That leaves them about $7 million below the luxury-tax threshold of $237 million.

Signing someone like Snell or Montgomery would likely bump the Giants over the tax, though Zaidi suggested the club would be open to paying the penalty -- a 20 percent tax on all overages in the first year -- if necessary.

“We’re sort of at a level where we’ll just evaluate things on a case-by-case basis,” Zaidi said. “There’s been no line in the sand drawn.”